LIHSA Alum Olivia Reed on Her Journey and Broadway Debut

Olivia Reed

When Cole Porter wrote the song “De-Lovely,” he must have had LIHSA alum Olivia Reed in mind.  Equal parts talented, humble, warm, and charming, she is a de-light to speak to. We’re excited to share her journey.

Olivia is grateful that she had the opportunity to attend LIHSA thanks to parents advocating for her to go with her home high school. Knowing what an effort it took for her to attend, she took full advantage of her time at LIHSA, studying classical vocal music, but taking any class she could including dance, musical theater, and even piano.

After graduating LIHSA in 2010, Olivia headed to Catholic University in D.C. where she earned a bachelor’s in music with a concentration in Musical Theater. Her music classwork included music theory, conducting, ear training, basic piano proficiency, music literature and history, plus taking acting and dance classes. She was excited to be one of three freshmen cast in the fall musical at Catholic University when she started.  She played Lady of the Spa in the school’s production of Nine. Her first two years at school she took 21 credits and worked on shows, either on stage or behind the scenes. Production work was one of the curriculum requirements and she loved learning those aspects of theater as well.

In her junior year at Catholic, she landed her first professional company roles: she was part of the ensemble and understudied Nettie in The Color Purple and played Carla in In the Heights at Toby’s Dinner Theater. Her final year at Catholic she chose not to audition for shows, but instead to focus on working with one of her mentor professors on her creative projects so Olivia could continue to learn on how to choreograph and teach. She is so appreciative of this special experience that set her up to teach later in her career. She has remained close with her mentor.

During her senior year, Olivia attended the United Professional Theater Auditions in Tennessee. This is a chance to have 90 second auditions in front of directors from all aspects of the entertainment industry. From the UPTA auditions, she received her first callback in New York. This experience taught her a lot about the audition process, noting that her first callback for a role placed her with other actors who were on their third or fourth callback for the same role. This gave her insight into the level of commitment she would have to have to move forward with this career.  Her dedication paid off: Upon graduating from Catholic University, Olivia joined the National Tour of Mama Mia!

For a year, Olivia played the role of Lisa (one of Sophie’s best friends) and had an amazing experience touring all over the country with a fantastic cast. She shared, “I was 22 years old and felt very close to my dream. I got to work with Broadway professionals and felt a part of the creative process.  Even though the show had been around since 2001, if anything changed on Broadway, the notes came to us and we incorporated the same changes to our show. We had a sense of pride to keep the show authentic. Collectively, we worked so well together and were so dedicated to the craft.”

Proving the power of the LIHSA connection, Lisa worked alongside Kevin Harrington and Christopher Hlinka during the Mama Mia National Tour and the three made this video in support of their alma mater.

After her year’s contract, Olivia returned to New York and got booked for regional theater jobs, and then landed in a production of West Side Story at the Signature Theater in D.C. where she played a member of the Sharks named Consuelo and understudied the role of Anita. This stood out as one of her favorite productions “I’ve been very fortunate that every show I’ve been part of has been beautiful. And this group was very special. So full of creativity and passion. It was a stellar production!” She further noted that being the understudy to Natascia Diaz allowed her to learn and grow. “I’m a sponge and learned so much from her!”

A couple of years later, Olivia found herself back in D.C. in her first job as a swing for the world premiere of Freaky Friday at the Signature Theater in Arlington. It was one of her hardest jobs, both as a hardworking swing but also because as a new musical, it was constantly changing and evolving over the course of the rehearsal period. “We’d learn a number and then the entire dance would change.”

Another career highlight that made for exciting but challenging work was performing for four months in the Korea-based touring company of Dreamgirls. She played Michelle and understudied Deena). Olivia explained that in Korea, audience members attend shows to see favorite performers in roles, so she had to work hard to become familiar with audiences so they would not be disappointed to see her go on as an understudy. She had to build in time to do extensive marketing, interviews, and promo videos. Despite the rigor, she exclaims, “I absolutely loved it and would like to go back so badly.  It was a cast of amazing performers ranging from people with seven Broadway credits to others who just landed one of their bigger contracts. It demonstrated how we all learn from one another.”

About a year ago, Olivia and her 5 ½ year old son returned to New York and she is currently teaching Introduction to Dance and Anatomy of Movement to NYU Tisch Students at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. She loves teaching and being part of students’ educational process.

Just as the school recessed for holiday break in December, she got a call from her manager that the Broadway production of Spamalot was auditioning for a short-term medical leave replacement for a member of the ensemble. She had a dance audition on a Monday and was asked to stay, sing, and for her measurements. She headed right to the wardrobe office to get sized and 20 minutes after leaving the fitting, she learned she was going to get an offer. She booked it! The next day began a whirlwind of learning her role and rehearsals. It was at once overwhelming and wonderful. “Everyone was kind, understanding, complimentary and supportive. They literally welcomed me to the family.” By Friday, she learned the show. She spent Christmas day with her son (and her notes) and made her Broadway debut on December 28, 2023 – 10 days after auditioning! She appeared through January 14, 2024.

Olivia reflects, “I had to trust my castmates and trust myself. I wanted to give the role life and personality and add to the greatness others were giving on stage. But I also learned to leave perfectionism behind because it takes up too much space. I had to stay grounded because of the whirlwind of the timeline. It was a fantastic experience. I’ll forever be grateful to every single person involved in that production for being so kind and encouraging.”

Congratulations, Olivia! We applaud you and can’t wait to continue to share in your journey!